In the span of forty years, the Défi sportif AlterGo has changed many lives. The lives of athletes, families, volunteers, employees… And yet, behind the huge event and the energy of the competition lurks a humble yet ambitious dream. When Monique Lefebvre, former director of AlterGo and founder of the Défi sportif AlterGo, came up with the idea for the event, she was motivated by a single goal: To help change the way people see people with disabilities. Her parents, both disabled, played a large role in that.
“You become involved, and you learn. When I would go to the grocery store with my mother, people would give her small change because they felt sorry for her. On the other hand, people were impressed when they saw my father playing sports. When your parents have disabilities, you pick up on all the prejudices, you go through what they go through.”
As director of AlterGo, Monique Lefebvre determined it was time to gather its different members together—the individual associations representing various disabilities. A total of 720 athletes attended the first Défi. It was an impressive number, considering the media’s indifference to the event. For the second edition, a big name joined the team as spokesperson: Yvon Deschamps. His involvement got the media’s attention.
But funding was another issue. So was changing people’s mindsets. While Lefebvre may have felt confident about obtaining the former, the latter proved more difficult. It’s a long-term task that continues to this day. Key targets—elected officials—had to be wooed. It was necessary to introduce them to the world of adapted sports.
“Some elected officials didn’t believe there were that many people with disabilities in their ridings. But through awareness days, official openings, and yearly letter-writing campaigns, we convinced elected officials to attend the Défi. And once they came, they never saw things the same way again.”
It was an often-difficult task. But the former director of AlterGo believes difficulties are nothing to be afraid of. After all, they serve as sources of both motivation and innovation. From year to year, no two Défis are alike. But some things remain constant, such as the vital contributions of the volunteers, “the cornerstone of the Défi,” according to Lefebvre. Relying on those generous individuals has paid off. In fact, many volunteers return every year.
“The first year, we had forgotten about food. We had to order pizza for all the employees and all the volunteers. We had to buy soft drinks, juice, apples,” she said, laughing.
The former director of AlterGo was very gratified to be attending the 40th annual Défi sportif AlterGo celebrations this year. She had never expected it to endure for so long.
“It’s really crazy. You have to be crazy to do this. It’s spectacular. It takes a lot of energy. It’s a huge responsibility. But when you combine the contributions of all these people, all their expertise, you get something amazing.”
More than anything, Lefebvre is proud of the Défi sportif AlterGo’s legacy, namely, the difference it has made for the athletes and their families. That’s something that is here to stay. As for the future of the event, the former director of AlterGo feels completely assured. She believes the current team is up to any challenge, and she is confident it will innovate when need be.